Reggae is a deeply spiritual genre of music that is known and loved the world over. Known for its rhythmic drum and guitar-centric sound, the genre has been cemented in the global conscience by popular and renowned musician Bob Marley, who used his music to spread the message of love and peace among mankind. Marley may have passed a long time ago, but the spirit of his message and his music lives on in the hearts of people even today; and no one carries the torch better than SOJA.
Soldiers of Jah Army, or SOJA in short, is a reggae/reggaeton band from Washington D.C. Formed in the later 1990s, the group came together after it five members met in school and bonded over their mutual love of rock and hip hop music as well as the music of Jamaican reggae icons Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. The members of the band are Jacob Hemphill on vocals and guitar, Bob Jefferson on bass guitar, Patrick O’ Shea on keyboards, Ryan Berty on drums and Ken Brownell on percussion. They initially played small shows locally in the general vicinity of DC and then, after all the group members finished their schooling, the band started touring. And the rest, as they say is history.
Over the next several years, SOJA would go on to release several albums and tour extensively, garnering widespread acclaim and establishing themselves as the forerunners of modern-day reggae. The band released its first recording, the self-titled Soldier of Jah Army in the year 2000, independently. Due to the lack of a major-label release, the album did not sell particularly well, but it nevertheless became popular among underground music circles through word-of-mouth. Afterwards, the band continued to tour and released two recordings: their first full-length album Peace in a Time of War and a remixed version of the same album, in 2002 and 2006, respectively.
The band’s first taste of commercial success came in 2006, when SOJA released its second full-length album, titled Get Wiser. Immediately upon its release, the album was featured in the Top 10 Reggae Albums on iTunes and continues to be in the top one hundred even today. From then onwards, the band released two live DVDs, namely Get Wiser Live in 2007 and SOJA – Live in Hawaii in 2009. Between that period of time, SOJA also released an EP called Stars and Stripes in 2008.
SOJA’s music follows in the footsteps of classic reggae and yet has a unique style of its own. The members of the band consider themselves to be folk musicians, spreading what they believe to be the universal message of faith, love, unity and peace among people of all religions, countries and races. As such, SOJA have drawn inspiration from a number of varied and prominent musicians. The band’s influences range from traditional reggae music to artists like Rage Against the Machine, Johnny Cash, Raekwon and the Wu-Tang Clan.
BY now, SOJA has enjoyed quite an illustrious career. The band has sold well over 150,000 albums and has performed in more than 15 countries, having headlined many sold-out festivals and large venues all over North and South America. They’ve shared the stage with the likes of O.A.R, Dave Matthews Band and Matsiyahu. They have more than a million fans online – with their videos on YouTube getting tens of millions of views altogether. They have even more fans in real life, with their international following even being described as “Grateful Dead-like.”
SOJA is now a band with a veritable cult status, which it has achieved all on its own, with constant touring and relentless devotion to its music and cause. Having played to crowds as large as 80,000, the band is a huge draw for fans of reggae and world music in general, thereby making SOJA tickets widely sought after wherever the band is performing.
Now, the band is out doing what it does best, being on the road. Having released its most recent full-length album, Strength to Survive, the band is on tour, playing in festivals and different venues. Bringing the love and groove of their enchanting melodies to the masses, the band is out to reconnect with its audiences once again with its passionate, earnest, heart-felt and ultimately timeless and universal message of equality and affection. Eager fans and enthusiasts are sure to be lining up for their SOJA tickets because to them, the band’s name is synonymous with good times and good vibes.
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